How did the Congress of Vienna attempt to create a lasting peace in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The Congress of Vienna sought to restructure Europe in such a way as to avoid future conflicts. One aspect of the settlement achieved at Vienna was the cordoning off of France from Europe by strengthening the nations and states that surrounded it, often by shaving off territory from France itself. As such, Holland gained possession of the Austrian Netherlands (modern Belgium); Prussia gained lands along the Rhine River; and the permanent neutrality of Switzerland was established.

Another major aspect of the settlement was to restore legitimate (i.e. hereditary) monarchs to the thrones of European kingdoms. The Bourbons thus returned to power in France in the form of Louis XVIII, Holland's House of Orange regained the throne of Holland (and Belgium.) The Spanish branch of the Bourbon dynasty, which had diverged from the French line in the seventeenth century, regained control of Spain and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It was assumed that the restoration of these dynasties would return order to the continent.

In addition to these measures, the aim at Vienna was to achieve a balance of power, whereby no particular nation would become too powerful, thus dominating European politics and leading to war. This mostly meant weakening France, but the powers also negotiated among each other, particularly in 1814, to form secret alliances. Austria and Great Britain, for example, schemed to prevent Russia and Prussia from gaining too much power and control over Poland and states within Germany. Finally, Austria's recognized role within the German Confederation was conceived as establishing a sort of check on Russian and Prussian ambitions, as well as those of France. But the final result of the Congress was characterized more by the spirit of "collective security" against aggression. The Quadruple Alliance, signed by Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain was intended to provide this collective security, promoting what the parties called the "Concert of Europe."

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